In-Depth

Imagination Engineer

The NT Resource Kit Supplement 4 is packed with cool new tools, including this little gem that lets you do anything from network diagramming to full-blown computer-aided design.

I just love getting new toys in the mail, don’t you? Case in point: I’m holding in my hand NT Resource Kit Supplement 4. Not only does it contain updates to many of the Resource Kit Utilities (some of which have been covered previously in these pages), but it also professes to contain more than 60 new tools and utilities to make your administrative life easier. Since it’s my duty to keep you, gentle reader, abreast of all that’s good and noble and decent (and really, really cool) in the arena of Windows utilities, I’ve decided to devote the next few months to covering what I consider to be the cream of this new crop.

Inside the Package

Before we get to this month’s featured tool, let’s take a look at Supplement 4 itself. There’s a lot here and I don’t want you to miss a thing. For starters, a Resource Kit Supplement is a lot like an NT Service Pack. It contains every update from previous supplements. So all you need to be completely up to date is the original NT Resource Kit (which, no doubt, is sitting right on your desk in your free TechNet subscription) and Supplement 4.

One of the neat new features of this supplement is that it contains the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK or eek!) for Internet Explorer 5.0. Previously, you had to jump through many hoops and ask very nicely in order to obtain the IEAK. But now Microsoft has (wisely) included it here. You do have to install it separately, though, because it’s not installed as part of the Resource Kit Utilities. In fact, this new supplement contains quite a few gadgets that require separate installation, including:

  • Internet Explorer 5.0
  • NT Service Pack 5 (exportable 40-bit security)
  • Imagination Engineer LE
  • Windows Management Instrumentation (Web-based enterprise management. It may take me two columns to cover this!)
  • Windows Scripting Host
  • Crystal Reports 6
  • Virtual Motion RAS Manager
  • Connection Manager Administration Kit (CMAK—partner to the IEAK)

Let Your Imagination Run Wild

We’re going to look at one of these applications today: Imagination Engineer LE. This is basically a “lite” version of Intergraph SmartSketch (previously named Imagineer Technical), which could best be described as Visio on steroids. Not only does this tool allow you to diagram your network equipment, it also has templates for office layout and designing relational mechanisms. In other words, you can use it to do computer-aided design (CAD) on machines with moving parts. You simply drag and drop the appropriate mechanical symbols, establish the relationship, and presto!

I must stress again that the version on the Supplement 4 CD is a “lite” version of the full SmartSketch product. In fact, it seemed like every time I turned around, I was given the opportunity to upgrade.

The light version contains tutorials covering just about anything you might want to accomplish. For instance, there are four separate tutorials on drawing basics:

  • Setting up a document
  • Basic sketching
  • Modifying a drawing
  • Adding dimensions

In addition to those, there are also tutorials for the three main types of activities for which you’d use Imagination Engineer LE:

  • Network design
  • Office layout
  • Engine mechanism

Lite But Strong

The tutorials are quite detailed in this version. I must admit, I was very impressed with the capabilities of the application. How many of us haven’t needed, from time to time, to produce a diagram of our networks? Why, not more than two weeks ago I had to produce a diagram of our network for the tech guys in our UK office. I hadn’t yet received the RK Supplement 4, so I ended up using Visio to do it. Not that it was a bad thing—Visio is a great product—but since you’re probably going to buy the RK supplement anyway, why shell out the extra 200 clams for Visio Standard if you don’t have to?

Besides, this baby does so much more than just simple network diagrams. Figure 1 shows a screen shot of the “Engine Mechanism” tutorial. It’s even cooler when you see it in action. Not only can you set up relationships between different parts, you can actually move the “machine” through its entire range of motion. Pretty sweet!

Figure 1. The Engine Mechanism tutorial helps you set up relationships among different parts and move the “machine” through its entire range of motion.

Even if you only use it for simple network diagrams, Imagination Engineer LE is well worth the money—since it’s free and all. But I have a sneaking suspicion that after using it a few times, you might just find yourself clicking “yes” at one of the many “Do You Want To Upgrade Now” screens. Stranger things have happened.

About the Author

Chris Brooke, MCSE, is a contributing editor for Redmond magazine and director of enterprise technology for ComponentSource. He specializes in development, integration services and network/Internet administration. Send questions or your favorite scripts to chrisb@componentsource.com.

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